Everybody’s looking around to see what’s gone wrong with Prince Edward County. We can’t seem to sustain the budget the County demands for giving us the services we receive.
So first we go lifting up the seat cushions on our chairs and sofas, scouting for some loose change that might have fallen out of someone’s pocket. This was the CEO’s first line of approach, when he turned the spotlight on libraries, museums and town halls.
Clearly the money saved here would not buy a cheeseburger at McDonald’s, so CEO Merlin looked at the other end of the scale: Management, where hundreds of thousands of dollars are coughed up each year, to do the job the township councils did 15 years ago, virtually for free.
As a result, a shuffle has been made in the departments, and possibly for the better. Time will tell, because corporations like the County always have to leave some kind of opening for the high-priced people they need to dispose of. So they may be hired back and, hopefully, they won’t get 100 Gs for doing the job the totally-unpaid guy does on Picton Main Street to keep the streets clean.
So basically, we started hunting for money in the really small things, and then started looking at the really big things. This is good, but I think it ignores the basic problem.
Our amalgamated system is huge, bulky, and packed with people who make your request look as enormous as possible, in order to make their jobs look essential. Which – from the County resident’s point of view – is why simple things take a large amount of effort to accomplish, and sometimes cost a pantload of money.
If you really want to know what’s wrong in the County … it’s in the details. I recently read an ad in The Times from the County, seeking a ‘Casual Part-Time Landfill Attendant’. For you Old-School people, this used to be called the ‘Dump Guy’.
This ad was brought to my attention by my friend Gary Morden, a long-time Century 21 agent, who is also involved in several other business ventures.
“I read the ad,” he said, “and I thought that might be a fun thing to do. Then I read the requirements, and went ‘Wow! I don’t think I qualify’!”
The ideal candidate, according to the ad, would need: a minimum Grade 12 diploma, post-secondary education preferred; ability to work independently as well as part of a team; proven communication and customer service skills; experience in cash management; knowledge and training under the Occupational Health & Safety Act; excellent physical condition; no criminal background.
Whew! I had to agree with Gary. I don’t think I want to apply either, and suffer the embarrassment of rejection.
This would not look good on my resumé: “Ran a successful business for 36 years, but was recently rejected as the ‘Dump Guy’ unless I buffed up a bit with some weight training.”
By the way, I’m not disrespecting the guys and gals who run the dumps – they’re great! I’ve had some fine conversations with them, and many of their patrons, and I get a lot of column ideas as a result.
Because, like the post office and the bank, the ‘landfill attendants’ get the hottest gossip from the community.
I have a number of problems with our ‘New Way’ of doing things.
First, how much did taxpayers pay to have someone draw up the detailed description that appeared in the ad? That’s what we pay the Big Money for.
Second, unless I’m mistaken, all of the dump hours have been cut down to one day a week or less. Sure, they’re offering $16.76 an hour, which (in writer’s terms) is one kickin’ wage, but the ‘one-day’ thing is probably not going to attract the people who have hustled to get their Master’s degree, so they can jump ahead of the slackards who only have a General BA.
The problem is not with the Dump Guys. They’re cool.
The problem is: we have set up a system that requires enormous amounts of time and money to advertise, interview, gather resumés, peruse, discuss and eventually select a Dump Guy.
For one day a week! Maybe more, at a different location, if you have read some Chaucer, but not George Orwell, who predicted out-of-control bureaucracies long before 1984.
This is what’s gone wrong in the County. Decisions like this were once made at a kitchen table, by township councillors.
“We need a guy to man the dump.”
“How about Fred? He’s looking for work and he needs the money.”
“Okay, let’s call Fred.”
Done and done.
Not to go too far over the edge, but we have convinced ourselves that everything has to be complicated. And all of our governments have taught us that.
We believe it, and that’s what sustains fat bureaucracies and fat corporations. The people with the Big Money. Without them we’d be lost! Or would we?
I know the simple ways are gone. But pouring money into a broken system is not going to help us.
The County has also announced it is seeking public opinion in a survey (www.surveymonkey.com/s/PEC2012) on Customer Service. We’ve all had dealings with ‘County’ and, to me, the higher up you go, the less service you get.
So I’ll tell you my response up front.
Customer Service?: Excellent.
Are County employees helpful, courteous and professional?: Yes. Except for two guys who are both gone now. Both at higher levels.
How can we improve customer service?: Keep the people who actually do the work. They know how to do it, and they don’t need a load of supervisors and management telling them how to do it.
They don’t need a lot of rules and restrictions, and things they ‘need to check’. Cut them loose. They know their job, and they know how to get it done quickly, if you don’t tie their hands.
This may be a Fool’s Dream, but County needs to lose its obsession with ‘liability’, so we can set about doing the things ordinary County residents do all the time.
All Dalton McGuinty needs to say is: “Health and Safety” and a bill gets passed. All you need to say in the County is “liability” and a travelling zoo gets turned away. Thanks to the province, a Bake Sale gets shut down.
This is what’s wrong with the County. We live, and we do what we do. We don’t want – or need – a string of managers shouting out the rules.
It seems the only way we can continue to do the things we do, is to keep it under wraps. Go underground.
“SSSh! – we’re having a smorgasbord at the church with food cooked off-premises in the best kitchens in the County – don’t tell anybody!”
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